Global Shifts In Mobile Power: Top 5 Mobile Phones Worldwide

Power Shift

For the first time, sales of smartphones have overcome those of so-called feature phones, according to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, a country-level poll released Thursday. IDC reported that 418.6 million mobile phones were shipped in the "seasonally slow" first quarter of the year, up from 402.4 million units in the same quarter last year, for a 4 percent increase. In the final quarter of 2012, which includes the holiday buying season, 483.2 million mobile phones were consumed.

Of the 418.6 million mobile phones sold worldwide, 216.2 million, or 51.6 percent, were smartphones. This represents an increase in smartphone sales of 41.6 percent from the prior-year period, during which 152.7 million smartphones changed hands. "Phone users want computers in their pockets," said Kevin Restivo, senior research analyst with IDC, in a statement accompanying the report. "As a result, the balance of smartphone power has shifted to phone makers that are most dependent on smartphones." The report breaks down smartphone market share by individual vendor.

5. ZTE

With 9.1 million units sold in the first quarter, Chinese telecom and networking giant ZTE continued to increase its market share in North America and Asia/Pacific, where most of its sales occurred. According to Ramon Llamas, research manager with IDC's Mobile Phone team, the success of ZTE is indicative of a "major trend" in the industry: "the emergence of Chinese companies among the leading smartphone vendors" and the displacement of BlackBerry (formerly RIM), HTC and Nokia among the top five. "Chinese vendors, including Huawei and ZTE as well as Coolpad and Lenovo, have made significant strides to capture new users with their respective Android smartphones." The company also is developing a phone to run Firefox OS.

4. Huawei Ascends

Landing in fourth place in worldwide smartphone sales was Huawei, which sold 9.9 million units in the first quarter of 2013, nearly doubling its unit sales from the same quarter a year ago. IDC attributes this growth to the company's increased development of the Huawei Ascend, an Android-based smartphone it sells under its own brand. Huawei's prior strategy relied heavily on rebranded feature phones and a limited Ascend presence outside the Asia/Pacific region, the report said. Huawei is clearly one to watch.

3. LG Returns

After a half-year fall from the top-five grace, LG is back and in the No. 3 slot with 10.3 million units sold, an increase from last year of more than 110 percent and a record for the company. Driving its success were its L-series and Nexis 4 phones, both of which are of the 3G variety. Also high on LG's hit list was its Optimus G LTE phones. The Korean electronics giant is pinning its hopes for continued success on its new F-series mid-range phones and entry-level L models.

2. Apple Breaks Records

Spurred by the release of the iPhone 5, Apple broke records for first-quarter sales with a whopping 37.4 units sold, an increase of 6.6 percent from the year-ago period, IDC reported. But, that was the good news. The bad news was that Apple reportedly had not posted year-over-year growth in single digits since the third quarter of 2009. Being in second place is nothing new, though. Apple has held that dubious distinction for the past five consecutive quarters, the report said.

1. Samsung Stays King

With 70.7 million units sold, Samsung held its place at the top of the smartphone heap and enjoyed a 60.7 percent increase from last year at this time and more units than the last four vendors combined, IDC noted. What's more, the Korean electronics colossus now maintains a 32.7 percent share of the smartphone market, a position that will likely grow with the release this month of the Galaxy S4.